Hamptons Reno: Shoestring Lighting Buys


LET THERE BE MORE LIGHT, said the new owner of the meagerly electrified beach house, and so Tom the electrician came and upgraded the situation over a period of two days — installing dedicated circuits for the fridge, stove, and space heater; running wires for new overhead fixtures in the dining/sitting room, above; removing lamp cords that snaked along floors and walls with no regard for that thing called code; and capping and burying wires that ran willy-nilly through the half-acre property, illumination for the pool that no longer exists and trees that may be coming down.

IMG_1767Staying one step ahead of the tradesmen, as is my habit, I hopped into my car yesterday morning, a rainy Tuesday, determined to produce by day’s end a hanging fixture for over the kitchen counter and another for over the dining table I don’t yet have (and don’t know the size or shape of). This is a challenge on the far East End of Long Island, where shopping ops are few.

There’s nothing like an enforced drive up-island to make one realize how aptly named Long Island is. I hadn’t intended to go more than a few miles east if I could help it. My hope was that I’d find two marvelous fixtures at either the Ladies Village Improvement Society thrift shop in East Hampton or the ARF (Animal Rescue Fund) shop in Bridge, and then make a 12:00 yoga class. But as good as those shops are, they hew traditional, and my vision here is rustic/retro/industrial. The woman at ARF suggested I try the Restoration Hardware outlet at the Tanger Mall in Riverhead, and I decided to go for it, though it’s an hour’s drive from Springs. I stopped along the way at Revco Lighting and Suffolk Lighting in Southampton, two high-end showrooms whose prices I had no intention of paying, and also at Schwing, an electrical supply store where I picked up a bunch of landscape lighting catalogues and had an illuminating discussion about low versus line voltage — and realized that landscape lighting will have to be a low priority. Decent quality fixtures cost in the neighborhood of $200, and I need 10. And then there’s installation.IMG_1765

Ultimately I succeeded; my long day’s journey yielded what RH calls a vintage barn pendant in slate gray for over the kitchen counter, above; I paid $107 (originally $249) and it seems to be of very decent quality. There’s a West Elm there, too, to which I’ll be returning when it’s time for rugs. There I picked up a big white bell-shaped enamel shade, right, for over the future dining table, for $50.

I had been hoping they’d have the pumpkin-shaped bentwood fixture, below, I’d seen and liked in the West Elm catalogue, but they only had the long cigar-shaped one ($79 without its innards, orig. $169) and I decided the ceiling is too low for such a long fixture.


I capped my lamp-shopping triumphs with a stop at East Hampton Hardware, where I bought a $5.99 ‘jelly jar’ sconce, the kind normally used for outside back doors. I tried it in the long ship-like hall, and I think it’s just right. I’m going back for a second one. Can’t beat the price, right?502195

Some of the existing lighting in the house and yard is very Springs-arty. In the kitchen, the under-cabinet fixture is a long homemade metal panel that takes four tubular bulbs, below. Above the sink: a pair of ’70s white cubes. On a dimmer, with small floodlights, it gives abundant light. I’m keeping both.

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In the yard, there’s an assortment of landscape fixtures, below, which I now realize are vintage and not cheap. But I dislike them: there’s a pagoda, two carriage lamps, and two flowers, which I’ve promised to my contractor when I find replacements. The only one I can handle, though it’s not beautiful, is a utilitarian-looking thing that’s fallen over on its side. I’ll be looking into path lighting, but it’s not top of my list.

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There’s also a pair of nautical-style, nicely oxidized sconces on the house’s exterior, below. They’re heavy and old and I like them a lot.


Charles the plumber is due tomorrow to install the shower body, and Miguel, the contractor, will tile the bathroom next week. Hopefully I can persuade the plumber to return to install the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and toilet, while Miguel moves on to window repair.


I spent two hours this morning researching casement fasteners, left, and I’m still not sure I’ve found the right thing. Coming up: let there be locks.

BOTTOM FISHING: Sag Harbor Village 499K


That’s the best of the headlines of the half-dozen HREO (Hamptons Real Estate Online) listings for this plain Jane, century-old 3 BR, 2 bath house in the rose-arbored, clapboard-shingled, fanlight-studded, shutter-bedecked, once-proud whaling village of Sag Harbor. (Now it’s the funky but chic “un-Hampton,” conveniently located right in the middle of the Hamptons, but at a safe physical and psychological distance from them.)


This is my favorite kind of investment house. This is what gets my blood racing (how ’bout you?) “Neglected.” “Not been maintained.” “Needs TLC.” “If you like projects…” This crone is decrepit, and that’s not all it has going for it:

  • It’s on Jermain Avenue, one of the oldest and pleasantest streets in the Village.
  • It’s in bad, bad shape, but look at it this way: it hasn’t been too badly f*cked up. One broker of several I talked to hinted darkly at “structural problems,” which probably means “Please don’t waste my time and gas if you’re not from the renovators.” Invoking structural problems is no way to sell a house. That’s about as scary a description as they come, but “structural problems,'” as I found out when I bought an 1810 building in Philadelphia, CAN end up being no big deal and cost little to fix (or not). I tried to get more info by calling a couple of other agents (it’s an open listing) and here’s what I heard: “I haven’t been down in the basement.” “No one has had it inspected yet.” Sounds highly negotiable to me.
  • The house is an estate sale. It was owned by an elderly couple, who died recently in their 90s. It’s cluttered with old people’s stuff, a turn-off any would-be investor/homeowner needs to get past. It was on the market while the couple was alive, failed to sell, taken off, and recently put back on by their heir. What does that mean? Even more negotiable.


  • What looks like clapboard in the photos is actually vinyl siding, the one ‘improvement’ they apparently did make. No upside to that. The heating system (oil hot water) works. The house needs plumbing and electrical upgrades, duh. Taxes are a mystery at this point (the homeowner had veterans and senior exemptions), but one broker estimated they would be around $4,000/year.
  • There’s a garage in the back, right on the property line — which would never be allowed today — but it’s legal. The garage is in decent shape, with old sliding doors.


If you could get a Sag Harbor Village Victorian like this one for 450K or even less, well, you’d have turned the clock back quite a few years, with better interest rates.